Baubles, baubles everywhere

The signature achievement of former state Attorney General Darrell McGraw is not that he wasted taxpayer dollars on self-promotional trinkets. But that he did, and he did it to the degree that its practice became an issue used for political gain by Republican Patrick Morrisey to defeat McGraw by the slimmest of margins in last year’s general election.

But now Morrisey risks making too much of trinkets.

His press conference on Monday teetered on the same level of self-promotion that he accused his rival of. To be sure, his pledge to seek to enact a change in law that limits the attorney general to only two terms is notable, as is his promise to serve only two terms, but Morrisey’s tenure will be defined less by the length of it than by the substance of it.

We’re encouraged that part of his efforts to reform the attorney general’s office includes establishing a bidding process for lawyers. We are less convinced by his premature calls at challenging federal legislation that hasn’t even been drafted yet.

McGraw’s signature achievements were his efforts at consumer protection; his signing onto a multistate lawsuit against the tobacco industry soon after he took office in 1993 that continues to bring the state a financial windfall, and his targeting of businesses that preyed on vulnerable West Virginians sent a message that such business practices would not be tolerated.

Last week, and without announcement, Morrisey dismantled the office’s consumer affairs division, as well as its Human Rights Commission, leaving open to speculation where they will fit in this new attorney general’s priorities.

The existence of trinkets or their ban matters far less to West Virginians than the fierce protection of citizens’ rights that McGraw long championed, so much so that many voters apparently felt that this was something to be taken for granted.

We hope that by doing the right thing with trinkets, Morrisey will do the right thing by the people of West Virginia.

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